December-February precipitation in Southern Africa during recent El Niño events is studied by distinguishing circulation and precipitation responses during strong and moderate-to-weak events. We find that while both strong and moderate-to-weak El Niño events tend to dry Southern Africa, the pattern and magnitude of precipitation anomalies in the region are different, with strong El Niño events resulting in rainfall deficits often less than -0.88 standardized units and deficits of only about half that for the moderate-to-weak case. Additionally, the likelihood of Southern Africa receiving less than climatologic precipitation is approximately 80% for strong El Niño events compared to just over 60% for moderate-to-weak El Niño. Strong El Niño events are found to substantially disrupt onshore moisture transports from the Indian Ocean and increase geopotential heights within the Angola Low. Since El Niño is the most predictable component of the climate system that influences Southern Africa precipitation, the information provided by this assessment of the likelihood of dry conditions can serve to benefit early warning systems.
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